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Gordon Bates is a consultant child psychiatrist and Historian in Residence at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. This June he will lead a seminar on Victorian Hypnotism’s Twin Gifts to Medicine: Psychotherapy and Placebo.

The late nineteenth century saw great changes in British Medicine. French developments in neurology had ushered in an exciting new age of therapeutics based on hypnotism and suggestion. Despite initial conservatism, the treatment was taken up enthusiastically by some general practitioners and psychiatrists. The new technology was effective for physical health problems like headaches, pain and disordered sleep as well as a new range of neurotic illnesses that were presenting to doctors. However, the treatment was tainted by associations with stage magic, spiritualism and the fraudulent figure of Mesmer causing significant lay and medical anxieties. Gordon Bates has uncovered the remarkable story of the New Hypnotists and their successful quest to legitimise hypnotism and suggestion. Their efforts led to an era of dynamic psychiatry and talking therapies: mental illness was no longer constitutional and fixed. Suggestion and Hypnotism’s efficacy and utility in physical illness has been endlessly revived and forgotten for the same reasons as in the Victorian era.

Full video is available to watch here

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